The Pentagon could be forced to rewrite its timetable for an attack on Iraq,
slowing down the build-up of American troops and equipment in the Gulf region
if the deadlock at the United Nations over weapons inspections is not broken soon,
it emerged yesterday.
Though the defense department refuses to acknowledge publicly that troops in
the region are being readied for an invasion, soldiers and military gear have
been flooding in to neighboring states for weeks.
But now the strategists are rethinking their plans. They need to avoid tying
up tens of thousands of US troops while they wait for the completion of a weapons
inspections process in Iraq, which - even after an agreement is reached at the
UN - could last more than three months.
United States Ambassador to the United Nations John Negroponte speaks with reporters
after leaving talks on Iraq at the Russian mission to the U.N. in New York on
October 22. Abruptly stepping up pressure for quick U.N. action, the United States
distributed its tough new draft resolution on Iraq to the entire Security Council
for the first time Wednesday but Russia immediately rejected it and said France
and China were also opposed. REUTERS/Peter Morgan
"It's fair to say that there's some recalibration going on," the Washington
Post quoted one senior defense official as saying.
Russia, France and China remain implacable in their opposition to a redrafted
US resolution that threatens Saddam Hussein with "serious consequences" if he
resists UN weapons inspections and twice accuses him of being in "material breach"
of earlier resolutions - language which they say implicitly authorizes George
Bush to use military force without returning to the security council.
Igor Ivanov, the Russian foreign minister, told reporters in Moscow that "the
American draft resolution does not answer the criteria which the Russian side
laid out earlier and which it confirms today."
The UN delay, when added to the estimated 105-day period that the inspectors
would need to do their work and report, threatens to frustrate the Pentagon's
preference for a January invasion.
But the biggest disadvantage to fighting a war in late spring or summer - Iraq's
soaring temperatures - may be less of a problem than anticipated, due to technological
"We would prefer to fight in the winter, but the weather is not necessarily
a show-stopper," said Michael Vickers of the Washington thinktank the Center for
Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
The suits that troops would have to wear to protect themselves from potential
chemical weapons attacks are better ventilated and far less bulky than they were,
Mr Vickers said.
Where heat seeking missiles sometimes went off course in temperatures of up
to 49C (120F) during the last war, the army says new guidance systems allow missiles
to find their target even through thick summer clouds.
"The US military is trained to fight in all weather conditions, day or night,"
said a Pentagon spokesman, Lieutenant Dan Hetlage.
A different concern for the military, however, may come in the form of a congressional
report claiming that trained pilots and crew in two of the US army's reserve forces
- the air national guard and the air force reserve - are leaving in droves to
avoid taking the Pentagon's anthrax vaccine whose side-effects include nausea,
diarrhea, vomiting and, in rare cases, hallucination, depression or delirium.
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2002